Much of Civic Nebraska’s work focuses on Nebraska’s civic health – the way that our communities and our state are organized to define and address public problems. Communities with strong civic health have higher employment rates, stronger schools, better physical health, and more responsive governments. Every five years, we publish the Nebraska Civic Health Index, putting data behind the concepts of community engagement, social connectedness, political activity, and trust in our institutions. This work is at the heart of our mission and it’s vital to our vision of a modern, robust democracy for all Nebraskans.
But what powers civic health? Our answer, often, is civic love: A genuine love for society, expressed through a commitment to and work for the common good. In familiar terms, it’s an affection for the notion that we’re all better off when we’re all better off.
Civic love comes from within all of us, but manifests in so many ways. Volunteers donate their time, talent, and treasure. Activists show up and speak out on the causes that are near and dear to them. Shoppers support local businesses and help make up each of those places’ unique communities. No matter how it comes about, civic love is our communal heartbeat, the force that infuses our communities with warmth and vitality. It binds us to one another and fosters a sense of belonging, responsibility, and shared purpose.
How can we lead with civic love? There are no perfectly “right” ways, of course. But here are 10 for you to consider.
Humans weren’t meant to live their lives on screens. Attend local events, join clubs or groups that align with your interests, and take the initiative to get to know your neighbors. Building relationships strengthens the social fabric of the community.
Whether it’s participating in clean-up events, helping at a local food bank, or volunteering for community organizations, contributing your time and skills is a tangible way to show civic love. Plus, it’s literally good for you.
Civic love is a feeling, but is powered in large part by information, context, and knowledge of our communities. Share information with others, facilitate conversations, and encourage a culture of continuous learning within your community.
Offer mentorship to individuals in your community, especially younger generations. Providing guidance and support can have a positive impact on personal development and contribute to the overall well-being of the community.
Civic love involves caring for the well-being of all members of the community and working towards a just society. Stand up for fairness, equality, and justice. Advocate for policies that promote inclusivity and address systemic issues.
Focus on local.
Choose to spend your money at local businesses. Supporting local enterprises helps strengthen the community’s economic foundation and fosters a sense of interconnectedness among residents.
Steward your space.
Practicing sustainable habits is the ultimate act of civic love. Participate in local environmental initiatives, reduce your ecological footprint, and support policies that promote environmental conservation.
Understand that the richness that different perspectives, cultures, and backgrounds bring to a community is a strength. Civic love promotes inclusivity, fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, irrespective of their differences.
Expressing gratitude for the efforts of others is good for us individually and collectively. Acknowledge and celebrate the positive contributions people make to the community, and reinforce a sense of shared accomplishment.
We’ll stop there, but there are countless more, for sure. That’s because civic love is not just a sentiment; it’s a living force that compels us to lift up others for the well-being of everyone. Practicing civic love is an ongoing commitment – and by actively participating, supporting, and caring for the people and environment around us, we can build and sustain resilient, connected, thriving communities together.